Productive Anger

“A man is about as big as the things that make him angry.” – Winston Churchill

“Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” – Dr. Laurence J. Peter

I had the pleasure of catching up with an old coworker this past weekend. While we mostly talked about our personal lives, we also got a chance to catch up on what each other is doing at work and the opportunities and challenges we face. It’s always interesting to me to see that people who really care – those who are really invested in their organization and its future – often go through periods of feeling disenfranchised and even angry with the decisions of their organization. I’m not talking about being angry because one feels personally wronged (although that sometimes happens); I’m talking about feeling frustrated with not having the ability to help your organization make better choices. And while no one can be assured that their way is the right way, we shouldn’t be surprised that sometimes these situations can create a degree of anger wtihin us.

Understandably, we’re taught on some tacit level that  if we disagree with the organization’s decisions, that concern – not anger – is the more appropriate response. That’s probably true behaviorally (I’ve not yet “cleansed” the conference room after a meeting a la Jesus in the temple… yet), but we need not be ashamed when frustration bleeds over into anger. I’ve seen similar situations within the church. No one wants to seem like they’re too sensitive or easily provoked, but when we ask people to heavily invest their time, talents and their heart into an organization, we get the whole heart – not just the fuzzy part.

Fortunately, there is such a thing as holy anger. Simply put, holy anger is that anger which stems from somthing that is justifiably upsetting and that is handled appropriately. As Paul told the Ephesians, “In your anger, do not sin.” Jesus and many other people in the Bible grew angry at times without letting their anger lead them to sin. The real test for us, it seems, is to handle it well… to channel it into productive means of improving the organization, and, when those opportunties arise, to seek the campanionship and counsel of our fellow workplace believers to give us some healthy perspective.

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Forks, Fat and Fruit

Well after nearly two weeks of traveling, I’m finally back at home. Last week, the family and I went on a very enjoyable vacation and I spent the early part of this week in Chicago and Milwaukee. And what have I got to show for all of that travel? About four pounds.

I should have known better. Some time ago, I determined that controling my burgeoning waistline during times of business travel really just boils down to making a few smarter choices and having some self-control.

Part of the issue is just that I love free things. Why eat that same Fiber One granola bar that I eat each morning when the company will pick up eggs benedict in the hotel restaurant? The other issue is that going out with coworkers for dinner and a beer often trumps getting up early and working out. But being gluttoneous is Biblically paramount with being a drunkard (Prov 23:20-21), and both vices ruin far more lives than most of the crazy things the news has us worried about.

Last year I managed to actually lose 10 lbs when I was traveling a lot, thanks to having both a great boss and a great traveling partner. My boss, who had truly embraced the concept of office wellness, encouraged all the members of our team to schedule a daily hour at the gym just as we would any other mandatory meeting. Knowing that none of us ever put in less than a full work week anyway, he was precient in realizing that this strategy would keep us mentally and physically in the game over the long haul. In addition to him, I had a traveling partner that enjoyed being social as a team during morning workouts instead of at the hotel bar each night. That changed things… fewer late nights, better sleep, fewer calories and more exercise. On top of that, I learned that opting for smarter food choices – sushi instead of chinese, and a glass of red wine instead of a heavy beer, oil and vinegar instead of ranch – can make a huge difference. 

I guess it’s time for me to brush off those learnings from last year, drop the fries, and opt for some fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and SELF-CONTROL.”

Modern-day Amos

 

Have you ever noticed how much better known the people and stories of the New Testament are than the Old Testament? As a bonafide history geek, I enjoy looking back at books like 1 & 2 Chronicles, the books of “minor” prophets such as Hosea and Habakkuk, and digging up some of the classic narratives from Genesis. So for something a little different this week, I thought I’d highlight some of the folks I’ve found interesting from the OT and we’ll see if their lives offer us any helpful perspectives for being a 21st Century Christian in Corporate America.

Do you ever sense that you’re in the midst of a world that never really stops and thinks about their relationship with God? Sure, lots of folks go to church, some might even tip God a $20 when the basket passes by, but the stuff they hear in the Bible (or don’t hear) and the exhortations of the minister never seem to transcend that hour on Sunday mornings…

Welcome to the life of Amos. Amos was a shepherd living in Israel about 700+ years or so before Jesus was born. Israel was in a time of prosperity, and while religious ritual was common, living God-pleasing lives was rare. God called Amos to take a break from his day job to send some prophecy to Israel’s leaders that, well, wasn’t exactly optimistic. He was quick to explain that he was an amateur (“I’m not one of your professional prophets. I certainly never trained to be one.“) and used his position among the people to tell them what God needed them to hear, and to set a bold example of devotional living for them.

This is us, friends. We might not be paid ministers, but we find ourselves in a land of prosperity, often surrounded by those that think being a Christian is about weekly church attendance. Like Amos, we should be perceptive of the differences between rituals and authentic Godly living. After using Amos to rebuke Israel for all of its immoral behavior, the Lord said, “I hate all of your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.”

So should we go and tell someone at work who is acting in an ungodly manner that their ritualistic church attendance displeases God? Maybe, but I also believe that we’re sometimes called to add perspective in the workplace in more subtle ways than what Amos was asked to do in his day.

If we lead dynamic, God-honoring lives, people are bound to notice. When they do, we should encourage them to see beyond the doldrums of rote religious service.  Can you imagine being stuck going to weekly church services while stuck in a life that was devoid of spiritual vigor? How boring. As C.S. Lewis once said,

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Hypocricy in the church

We’ve all seen them – people claiming to be Christians, or churchgoers, or “religious” (a term that I’ve always shied away from) but don’t have a clue what it means to live lives in obedience to Christ. They show up to church and are willing to judge others for not doing so, yet can’t seem to forgive others, show mercy or act sacrificially.

My friends, in marketplace terms, these folks are our competition. As we pray for our coworkers and try our best to represent (re-present) the grace of Jesus to those around us, we are sometimes overshadowed by those who mis-represent what it means to be a Christian. Unfortunately, even in a world of Mother Theresas, it would be the lone, coiffed, money-grubbing televangelist that would garner the most attention.

Jesus didn’t exactly appreciate the hypocrites of his day either, most of whom were religious leaders (Pharisees).  The entire 23rd chapter of Matthew is about hypocritical church leaders, and one of his choice comments is found in Matt 23:25-26,

“How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisees! First wash the inside of the cup, and then the outside will become clean, too.”

Many have turned from God because of the actions of hypocrites in the church, and we should be on guard at work. We should first be on guard not to be chumming around the workplace with those that behave this way or else our own integrity could be marred. Additionally, and even more importantly, we should guard against the “yeast of the Pharisees” (Matt 16) in our own hearts. Sometimes our own behaviors betray us, and little is more impactful to our workplace ministry than rooting them out.  Jesus said that when the inside of the cup becomes clean, the outside becomes clean too. We can lean on that bold prayer that King David prayed in Psalm 139:23-24, lest we become the competitor among us.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Where’s the fruit?

Remember Clara, that old lady in the “Where’s the Beef?” commercials. I loved those commercials (I know that I’m dating myself here). Well today I had a Clara moment.

I was headed into a meeting that I really didn’t want to be in. I had some frustrations that I feared would inappropriately be visible to others and I took a couple of minutes beforehand to try and flush things out in my head. The question that popped into it was, “Where’s the fruit?” The fruit meaning, of course, the fruit of the Spirit.

Paul writes to the church at Galatia in Galatians 5:22 that there are certain behaviors that should be visible in those following Christ that are now commonly referred to as the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

As I refelected upon these qualities, I found myself asking the Lord for a little help. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s easy to say that you’re a Christian but it’s in these moments when that claim is either substantiated or proves to be just fluff (or just hamburger bun). I can’t say that I actually spent any time during the meeting specifically thinking about any of them, but giving them a moments worth of mediation and prayer certainly helped. The meeting went just fine and I think I managed to not appear immature or hostile despite my frustrations. Thanks Lord!

Seeking and receiving rest

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I’m tired. Our youngest child was up for hours last night with what I can only assume was a teething problem. As a result, I’ve felt like a zombie all day.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve dragged myself through a workday. There are those inevitable unexpected demands (Red Wings games) that come up in the course of a week that require us to get less sleep than required. And there have been times when I’m exhausted not from lack of sleep, but from the sheer stress and chaos encountered during the workday.

I’ve learned the hard way that we need rest not only to function in our work activities, but to function well spiritually. I know that being tired makes me less productive, less patient with coworkers, and according to a recent article, fat. It’s pretty tough to be a good representation of Christ when you’re staring at your computer monitor, sniping at the person next to you, or stealing their morning danish. Mmm… danish.

If you missed this post, I believe strongly that one great way to stay physically replenished is by taking a Sabbath each week. Beyond taking a Sabbath (and the eight hours of sleep that I fully intend to get each night post-playoffs) we can seek mental rest from the challenges of the daily grind through Jesus. In, Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said,

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

A yoke is a wooden frame that was used in Jesus’ day to hitch two oxen together while plowing a field. If Jesus is willing to be yoked with us – to be hitched with us to share in our burdens and lighten our load during the demands of our days – then we should take a moment to seek him during the day. That’s a prayer that shouldn’t wait until bedtime.

Happy Hour

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This weekend I read that Bud Light will soon be releasing Bud Light Lime, and with it will be launching a $35 million dollar ad campaign to promote the product. This past summer I was at a brand conference in Chicago and got a sneak peek at Miller Chill (their new lime beer) and couldn’t help but wonder, “Why spend millions to woo consumers when anyone can just ask a bartender for a piece of real lime?” But what do I know about a launching a new beer product?

What I do know is that it’s BIG business, and that beer itself plays a pretty big role in the lives of a lot of business people. Whether it’s happy hour, business trips, taking clients out to dinner, or just grabbing a cold one on a coworker’s porch in summertime, drinking and work often intersect. In fact, just tonight I met an old coworker who’s in town on business for a beer.

Have you ever wondered if it’s okay for Christians to drink with coworkers or clients? I thought about this a great deal when I was a younger, and I found a simple answer: it depends.

The Bible doesn’t condemn drinking. In fact, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine and in the 5th chapter of 1Timothy, we find Paul recommending that Timothy occasionally drink some wine for his sour stomach. The only people in the Bible that strictly avoided alcohol were a small sect of Jews called Nazirites  (including John the Baptist and Sampson) who followed a very strict set of rules found in Numbers 6. The best summary of the Bible’s recommendations on drinking can be summed up by Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”

It’s not that they are bad, but being led astray by them is. We need to be honest about this – does drinking ever get the better of us? Do you find yourself saying things you shouldn’t, embarrassing yourself, driving under the influence, or putting yourself into situations that could jeopardize your marriage or your job? Sure, passing up opportunities to drink with coworkers can be awkward, but not as awkward as letting drinks make a fool of you. If drinking impairs your ability to represent yourself as a follower of Jesus, then opt out of the next happy hour, or go along and just load up on diet coke. You can even find it now with a delicious twist of lime.